When I went to collect Seb’s bedding to be washed and found a pile of sketchbooks and other assorted papers scattered over it, I knew something needed to be done.
“Mon chaton? Come in here, please.”
He appeared in his doorway after several seconds, holding the microfiber cloth he was using to dust the living room. “Oui?”
I pointed to the pile. “I was going to get your duvet cover and sheets, however…”
“Oh!” Eyes widening, he dropped the cloth on his nightstand and went to the bed, gathering papers with both hands. “Sorry, I couldn’t find a drawing this morning.” He turned and plopped the lopsided stack down on his desk, where it joined myriad other art supplies, books, school binders, and somewhere, I knew, his laptop. “There. I can help you strip the bed, too.”
“Just a moment,” I said as he reached for his pillow. “Wouldn’t it be easier to put those away now, so you can find things in the future?”
“Um.” He blinked at his desk and then looked up at me through his eyelashes. “That… that is where I put them? Only the ones I might need soon, though. The rest are in the drawers.”
I had the feeling I already knew what I would see, yet I had to ask. “Would you mind opening a drawer, please?”
Hesitantly, he bent over and pulled open the bottom one, which was deep enough for hanging file folders. It had none, but had been filled to the brim nevertheless. I saw more sketchbooks, mandalas, cards, and the small, pink stuffed cat Theo had given him on Valentine’s Day. Glancing around the rest of the room, I noticed other disorganized areas that had grown over the past few weeks.
Definitely weeks, I realized, thinking back. The first couple of months of living here, he’d kept his room spotless. I suspected the growing chaos was evidence of his comfort with us also growing. Good sign or not, however, I couldn’t with a clear conscious allow this situation to remain. A tidy space is conducive to relaxation, and the clutter was approaching fire-hazard levels, especially with his fondness for burning incense.
“Alright,” I said. “Get your things and your shoes on, please.”
He looked startled. “Now? I wasn’t finished dusting.”
“Dusting can wait,” I said, ushering him out ahead of me as I collected his messenger bag with my other hand.
Theo looked over from unloading the dishwasher when I opened the pantry door. “What’re you guys doing, leaving me with the rest of the cleaning?”
“Seb needs some things to help organize his room,” I said. “We’re going to the Container Store.”
He looked at the younger Brat, horrified. “Oh, lord, now you’ve done it.”
I shook my head at Theo as I put a hand on Seb’s shoulder and spoke soothingly. “It’s fine, mon chaton. You aren’t in trouble.”
“Yeah, you are,” Theo told him with a smirk. “Pack a lunch. And dinner. And a sleeping bag. Good luck getting him”—he jerked a thumb at me—“out of there, is what I’m saying. And whatever you do, do not let him buy tape for his label maker.”
“Thank you, angel,” I said. “You’ve just reminded me I’m out of that.”
My husband groaned heavily, while Seb relaxed a fraction under my palm. A hint of nervousness remained, though, in his voice. “I didn’t mean to let it get so out of hand. I guess with Zain here, I was letting things go more.”
“I know, and you aren’t in trouble,” I repeated with patience. “I should have ensured you had better tools for organizing when you moved in. We’re correcting that now.” Turning him to the pantry, I added, “Get your shoes on, please.”
We did return a bit later than I’d planned. Most of the delay was due to Seb trying to steer me into buying the cheapest options available, though.
“I don’t need polka-dotted drawer organizers!” he said, reaching to remove them from the basket hooked over my elbow.
I held it out of the way and gave him a discreet pat on the bottom. While he flushed, I said, “Yes, you do. Not only are they better quality, but you are an extremely visual person. I am not turning your room into a drab and dreary space. Now, would you rather have the elephant file organizer, or the bear?”
He studied both golden wire animals a moment, licked his lips, and said, “L’éléphant, monsieur.”
“Merci,” I said, adding it to the basket. “Let’s find something to store artwork under your bed.”
Archival garment boxes fit the bill nicely, and I added a plastic tote to hold extra medical supplies as well. With a small amount of prompting, Seb selected the more colorful letter tray and desktop file box for his school papers, along with a coordinating pencil cup. The last item, a clothespin photo holder, would allow him to display drawings and momentos.
When we brought the bags into his room and began to unpack, Theo followed to stand in the doorway. “Look at him,” he told Seb, shaking his head. “Like a kid on Christmas morning.”
I put down the label maker tape and started towards my cheeky husband. He grinned and backed up swiftly, but I landed a noisy, harmless swat to send him on his way. Returning to the room, I found Seb fighting a fit of giggles. Between them, he said, “You are way more excited about this than me.”
My lips twitched. “Perhaps. I guarantee, though, you’ll feel lighter in this room once it’s squared away.” I clapped my hands together. “Let’s get started, shall we?”